23 April 2011

massive mental meanderings...

I was reading a blog article the other day (you can find it here), written by a missionary and talking about some of the hoops we, as foreigners, have to jump through just for the privilege of staying in our countries of service. It is a time consuming, often expensive, exhausting and exasperating process, at least in most of the countries with which I'm familiar. It usually involves multiple trips to offices, waiting in line for signatures, purchasing of stamps, waiting in more lines... and hoping an unexpected holiday hadn't been called or that the official you need to see decided to return to work after sieste. I'm thankful that the bulk of the burden falls on Tim's shoulders for our paperwork... I'm thankful that he allows that burden to fall on his shoulders! It is an enormous responsibility for our family and he has done his fair share of walking new-to-Niger EBM missos through the process, too. Living here, I never forget that I don't belong... and sometimes that leaves me longing for my Midland, Michigan home...
"I do not ask You to take them out of the world,
but to keep them from the evil one.
They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world...
As You sent Me into the world,
I also have sent them into the world."
(John 17.15-18)

Reading prompted several thoughts...

1. It is frustrating when I don't completely belong. Some moments are more frustrating than others, but it is a feeling that I only rarely escape... more likely, I've just learned to always with these abiding impressions: 
  • always a little bit on the outside, looking in, feeling like the proverbial wall-flower at a junior high dance. 
  • never just blending into the crowd. It doesn't matter - any time this family goes somewhere, we stand out - either because of our number, our color and many times, because of both. 
  • tiring of hearing people cry out "annasaara" every time we leave the house. It is usually not with mean intentions... although there are times when it is said derogatorily, hatefully... but it is wearying, especially on some days.
  • realizing I've accidently "eavesdropped" on a conversation because most of the time, people are rattling along in languages I don't comprehend.
  • recognizing all of the words that someone just said to me and still having no clue what they meant.
  • offending without intending offense because I'm culturally ignorant of what I should have done.
  • wondering why everyone just started laughing at something I found totally not funny.
  • etc., etc., etc.
  • wishing I didn't feel like this and longing for my very own teletransporter to easily beam me back and forth.
2. Then I started thinking, "That's how I'm supposed to feel! Maybe these feelings are evidence that God has me just exactly where He wants me... and I am walking in obedience the path He has for me!" Paul himself states that it is easier to be with Christ but he stays because the Lord has ministry for him to do:  "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you..." (Phil 1.21-25) Yes, I know Paul was looking towards his heavenly home - but I'm finding that moments of longing for the comfort and refuge of my Michigan home give me a taste, tiny bursts of flavor that teach me about longing for eternal home. It helps take an abstract concept and make it an expectant hope ~

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,
but you are fellow citizens with the saints,
and are of God's household...
(Eph 2.19)

photo by Larry Macklin

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